Nuts for Nutella Banana Bread

Nutella Banana Bread, fresh from the oven

Nothing says “comfort food” more than a freshly baked loaf of banana bread!

It seems we always have a freezer full of brown-black bananas at our house. Which makes my heart sing because banana bread happens to be my absolute favorite, go-to, comfort food. I used to make banana bread weekly, back in my tree house days (the nickname two of my girlfriends gave to my adorable apartment. I think, largely due to the elaborate back deck within a private green space. My corner of solitude in this crazy bustling city.) Now that I’m married, and running my catering business, my favorite quick bread recipe has become more of a special treat than a weekly occurrence. Fortunately, my husband is as huge as I, so when it does show up on our kitchen counter, he is giddy with delight.

If you live in Chicago, or have been paying even an ounce of attention to the news, you know we’ve had one nasty winter thus far. Cold doesn’t even come close to describing it. Needless to say, we’ve been hibernating and craving comfort food chez moi. So my go-to banana bread has been popping up more regularly again.

This recipe has been with me since 2002 – the same year I moved to Chicago. I always liked banana bread, but I had been searching for THE banana bread recipe. Once I made this Tyler Florence recipe, I knew I had found the one…and while I have adapted the recipe over the years to make it my own (adding this spice or that; subbing whole wheat flour for some of the AP; trying different mix-ins and toppings), I have never strayed from Tyler Florence’s base banana bread recipe. It’s solid. Try it yourself and you’ll be converted too. I guarantee!

During the most recent polar vortex that forced us to take cover inside, I decided to whip up a batch of banana bread. My husband requested chocolate chips (his favorite mix-in), and I agreed, but I had another idea to take it to an even more decadent level.

In December, we were the recipients of a ginormous jar of Nutella. (My husband’s aunt is a Costco enthusiast. Of course, when you buy Nutella at Costco, it comes in a 2-pack…because one ginormous jar just won’t do! Lucky for us…we got jar number 2!) The Nutella had been stowed away on the highest shelf in our cabinet – intentional? You better believe it! And now it was calling my name…shouting, even.

Nutella for the Nutella Banana Bread

“Hey Jillian! You know what would be DELICIOUS in your banana bread? ME!”                          (That’s my mixer in the background, for perspective!)

“Sure, I’ll add the milk chocolate chips, but how do you feel about Nutella as well. Nutella Banana Bread?”

His smile said it all. So, I mixed my banana bread up as usual, adding in a half cup of milk chocolate chips for the husband, then spooned half the batter into my prepared pan. Armed with a knife and the jar of Nutella, I added generous knife-fuls of the gooey spread onto the batter (probably easily 1/4-1/3 cup), topped it with the remaining batter, then dipped my knife into the batter and swirled away. Ta-da! Nutella Banana Bread!

But that just wouldn’t do. At the last second, I sprinkled a tablespoon or so of sliced almonds on top, along with a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar, then into the oven it went.

My husband and I busied ourselves with cleaning the house – he in the kitchen; me in the bathroom – while the bread filled the house with the most incredible enticing aroma. 65 minutes later, we had two spic-and-span rooms, and one sweet reward for our efforts! But we had to let it cool…oh waiting! It’s always the hardest part, regardless of your age.

Nutella Banana Bread, see inside!

Look at those gorgeous Nutella swirls!

Slicing into the bread, the gorgeous swirls of Nutella made us ooh and ahh. The flavor was even better. Nutella Banana Bread…this is an adaptation that will definitely be repeated!

Slice of Nutella Banana Bread

One for me and one for you!

 

Order your Valentine’s Day Macaron Gift Box today!

Cupid is coming! Get champagne, roses and chocolate for your special someone, all in one decadently delightful, Valentine’s Day Macaron Gift box from très jolie pâtisserie.

Our Valentine’s Day Macaron Gift Box is available for online purchase now, and pick-up at Bowtruss on Friday, February 14th, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Each gift box features four each of our exclusive Valentine’s Day flavors – Pink Champagne, Raspberry Rosewater and Chocolate – for a total of one dozen macarons. We are selling each Valentine’s Day Macaron Gift Box for $23.52 (plus sales tax).

Aren't these sparkly beauties bedazzling? Pink Champagne macarons - just one of the flavors you'll enjoy in our Valentine's Day Macaron Gift Box.

Aren’t these sparkly beauties bedazzling? Pink Champagne macarons – just one of the flavors you’ll enjoy in our Valentine’s Day Macaron Gift Box.

All our macarons are naturally gluten-free, as well as free of artificial flavorings and color agents. One bite and you’ll fall in love. Not even cupid could withstand the charms of these delectable beauties!

Order your Valentine’s Day Macaron Gift Box by Wednesday, February 5th.

These limited-edition flavors are available in limited quantities – and for a limited time. Place and securely pay for your order in advance. Deadline for ordering is 5:00 p.m. CST on Wednesday, February 5th.

At this time, we are only accepting local orders for our Valentine’s Day Macaron Gift Box. You must be able to pick up your order in person on Friday, February 14th at the Chicago River North location of Bowtruss Coffee.

 

 

Chocolate Fudge Cake

As it turns out, the key to my father-in-law’s heart was chocolate cake. But not just any chocolate cake – THE chocolate fudge cake from his favorite childhood bakery.

Green’s was the place to go on Chicago’s south side. Family-run and operated, they churned out all manner of sweetness to delight the neighborhood until closing in 1974. My F-I-L has been dreaming of their chocolate fudge cake ever since.

Whenever we’re together, I receive a near dissertation on the cake’s merits. He loses himself in the telling, eyes focused on a distant memory, tone softening, losing its trademark smart aleck edge. He is all sincerity as he describes the “dense layers of cake; not too dark in color, more like milk chocolate.”

And the chocolate frosting: “Thick as fudge! Not like that fluffy canned b.s. they try to pass off as frosting. This is the real deal – and it’s the same color as the cake – THE SAME COLOR.

 

Mmm. Chocolate Fudge Cake!

Mmm. Chocolate Fudge Cake!

 

My husband’s aunt was also under THE cake’s spell. She vividly recalls visiting her older sister and her husband (my in-laws) as an 11-year old, and eating THE chocolate fudge cake for breakfast, “Cold from the refrigerator, with a tall glass of milk. Mmmmmmmm!

They wanted chocolate fudge cake? I’d give them chocolate fudge cake.

Listening avidly, and jotting down every fevered detail, I promised to deliver the first cake in two weeks when everyone would be together again. The two fanatics were giddy with anticipation – giggling even.

You know, you don’t have to do this,” my husband whispered. Oh, but didn’t I?

So…I’m a bit of a research fiend. The thought of tracking down an Heirloom Chocolate Cake Recipe tickled me. My husband found this hilarious: “I’ve heard of heirloom tomatoes, but heirloom cakes?” Oh, they exist…and it was my mission to test the best of the bunch.

I’d start with “Dense Chocolate Cake with Fudge Frosting”. The blogger’s post was sprinkled with family photographs – generations of smiling, content chocolate cake eaters, plus a picture of the original recipe in her great grandmother’s timeless cursive. Promising. But the tests would tell.

Before I continue, I have always said everyone could use an Austrian great grandmother. Mine taught me two important things:

  1. Food is love (and we love to feed people)
  2. If it’s “no good”, throw it away

Test # 1: EPIC FAIL. Oh my awfulness. This cake was garbage, displeasing to the eye and the palate. Dry, flavorless, and more pink than brown. I took one bite and immediately chucked it. Next!

Recipe #2 was not exactly an heirloom, but the ingredients thrilled me. Calling for cocoa powder and boiling water – a dream combo known to produce rich chocolate flavor and color, with a dense texture, bordering on brownie-like fudginess. Even I, a non-chocolate eater, was eager to taste this cake. (What? A pastry chef who doesn’t like chocolate? Yeah, yeah. I know.)

Test #2: GETTING WARM. Although darker in color than I suspected my father-in-law would like, the texture was ideal – dense, yet moist. Satisfied so far, I whipped up my chocolate fudge frosting – a killer combo of melted semi-sweet chocolate, milk, butter and confectioner’s sugar that whips up billowy and lush, and frosts to a thick, rich decadence – assembled the cake and we hit the road…

 

Test Cake #2. A little darker in color than my father-in-law would want, but so delicious! Would it sneak by?

Test Cake #2. A little darker in color than I suspect my father-in-law would want, but so delicious! Would it win his approval?

Would my father-in-law and his sister-in-law approve? My husband’s aunt did a happy dance. She loved everything about this cake. My F-I-L, on the other hand, was a bit more picky particular.

The texture is perfect”, he said between bites, “The frosting is exactly right. But the cake is too dark. It should be the same color as the frosting.

Ah. That again.

He continued, “Just take out some of the chocolate and bake it again.

HA! I love it when non-bakers throw out suggestions like that. With cooking, you can totally Swedish Chef it up; with baking…not so much. Baking is a science, and a very precise one at that. You have to balance the fats, sugars, and starches just-so for a baked good to turn out right. Remove “a little” cocoa, and you have to add back some extra fat some other way. Now, I’m all for trial and error, but how many cakes would I have to throw away?

 

A slice of Cake #2. My husband's aunt loved it. But there was still no pleasing the F-I-L. I had my work cut out for me!

A slice of Cake #2. My husband’s aunt loved it. But there was still no pleasing the F-I-L. I had my work cut out for me!

No more, as luck would turn out. My mom called to ask me a question about a frosting she was making for a cake…a 1944 Wellesley College recipe for “fudgy chocolate cake“! Providence!

Tell me more about this cake”, I implored. “What color is it?

Her answer pleased me greatly: “Very light brown – almost milk chocolate in color.

I asked for the recipe and got to work immediately. We would see my F-I-L again on Christmas Eve – what better present than THE chocolate fudge cake?

Test #3: PURE MAGIC. Milk chocolate color? Check. Dense crumb? Check. Mild chocolate flavor? Check. This might be the one! I whipped up my frosting (the original, F-I-L-tested, F-I-L-approved recipe) and assembled the cake, eager as a kid for Christmas to come.

When I walked through the door with our cake carrier, my father-in-law’s eyes lit up.

Is that what I think it is?”, he asked, practically skipping to accept his prize. He carried that cake with the extreme care one shows a newborn baby. It warmed my heart.

He could barely get through dinner fast enough, he was so excited. And then FINALLY…

The color’s perfect!” He proclaimed, slicing himself a generous wedge.

 

Third time's the charm!

Third time’s the charm!

No one could take their eyes off him as he took that first bite. He closed his eyes and chewed slowly. With a satisfied sigh, his posture softened and he sunk back into his seat. Setting down his fork, he finally opened his eyes and looked at me, “You did it, kid. This is the cake. You did it!” And then he Fantastic Mr. Fox‘d it up. :)

I always knew food memories were strong. But this was the first time I’d witnessed a food’s transformative power. With one bite of that chocolate fudge cake, my F-I-L was a little kid again. Life was easy. Life was delicious.

Pass a fork.

Butter and Love

Quote

I have been away from this blog for far too long, dear readers. Today, a memory inspired me to return. Butter and Love. 19 years later, this phrase still brings a smile to my lips, and warms my heart.

When I was in high school, I was involved with an organization called “Peer Leadership”. The upperclassmen who were selected for the program were paired with incoming freshman matches – one per student. We served as mentors, helping them acclimate to high school, balance their new schedules and life demands, get involved in extracurriculars, and most importantly, we were there for them, listening and supporting them. Being good friends to them.

Every summer, the entire organization traveled to a camp in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin for a weekend orientation. We would bond with our matches, and work with our bigger groups, developing teamwork, problem solving and communication skills. (Trust that there were a lot of trust falls!) One of the best parts about this camp was the outdoor ropes course. SO MUCH FUN!! Obstacles galore and super scary high ropes. We looked forward to it every summer.

As I ran today along my favorite route, the sky so perfectly blue, with nary a cloud in sight, and the sun beaming down upon me through the amber leaves of the trees, I was reminded of those summer weekends in Wisconsin, the woods filled with the gleeful shrieks of high school kids sipping through the tree line.

The camp also had a wonderful old kitchen, manned by a wonderful elderly lady. Every morning, we’d line up to get breakfast, and every morning, we’d giggle with delight at the hand-crocheted framed sign that adorned the faded yellow wall:

Everything in this kitchen is made with butter and love

Even then, at the tender age of 15, I loved it because it reminded me of my grandmother and her mother. They didn’t use processed anything – and you could tell! Another heaping serving of butter and love, please and thank you!

Here I am, 19 years later, following in my ancestor’s footsteps. From my flaky pie dough (no lard here!) to my irresistible croissants (which I patiently laminate by hand!), to my luscious curds and buttercreams, all made with European butter (the good, rich, yellow, high fat stuff!) presided over with loving devotion.

I want that sign. I need that sign. If someone crafty with a crochet needle needs an idea for a Christmas gift for me this year…you’re welcome! And to show my appreciation, I’ll whip up something extra buttery and lovely just for you!

Important farmer’s market announcement

Hello lovelies.

We can’t believe August is more than halfway over! Summer went by in the blink of an eye. As many of you know, we’ve been spending our summer Saturday’s at the Nettlehorst School Farmer’s Market in East Lakeview. And like you loyal market attendees, we look forward to that day every week.

Mark your calendars. August 31st, we will make our final market appearance this season. It’s not you. It’s us. This fall, we have a wedding of our own, and weddings to cater, which means we had to cut back earlier than planned.

If you really need your très jolie pâtisserie fix, you can still get it – you just have to place an order through our website. Give us a shout at least two weeks before you need your goodies, and we should be able to accommodate.

Speaking of fall, we are getting excited about planning new items for the menu with the seasonal gems that await us. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There’s still plenty of summer’s bounty to enjoy. Here’s what’s on the menu for the next two market appearances:

Saturday, August 24th:

Scones: Blueberry & Lavender; Cowboy (Chocolate, Bacon and Pretzel)

Macarons: 3-packs containing 1 each of Champagne, Papaya and Matcha Green Tea

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Macaron 3-packs, coming to a farmer’s market near you!

NEW Currant Buns: a Dutch favorite!

NEW Blueberry Bundt Cake

THIS WEEK ONLY, Mini cupcakes: Red Velvet with Raspberry Buttercream; Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

NEW Chocolate Truffles: Guinness & Pretzel; Espresso; Mayan Spice

THIS WEEK ONLY, Chocolate Peanut Clusters

 

Saturday, August 31st:

Scones: Pear & Blue Cheese; Jalapeno & Cheddar; Strawberry & Dark Chocolate; Cowboy (Chocolate, Bacon and Pretzel)

Currant Buns: a Dutch favorite!

Blueberry Bundt Cake

Zucchini Bread

Rhubarb & Mixed Berry Handpies

Apricot & Almond Galettes

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Visit our booth at DOSE Market, this Sunday, April 14th

What does Spring taste like? Find out this weekend at DOSE Market. We’re unveiling a variety of gorgeous and tasty treats that bring the promise of Spring to life. Whether you’re hungry for breakfast or an afternoon snack, we have just the delicacy to satisfy your craving.

Just like the first crocuses to poke through the ground, our delicate Pastel Meringues in assorted flavors yield a surprising burst of color.

Lemon Madeleines hold all the fresh, bright citrus notes that beckon sunshiny days to come.

Bite into a flaky Pain au Chocolat, close your eyes and be transported to the banks of the Seine.

Our Crumb Cake is the good kind of crumby – and you won’t mind wearing those crumbs with pride.

One bite of our scones and you’ll be back for more. We blend sweet and savory notes in each of our signature flavors. Like Bacon and Date. Or Pear and Blue Cheese. And we even have a scone for our Gluten-Free Vegan friends!

What could be more festive than a springtime lineup of cupcakes? Try the light-as-air Lemon Cloud Cupcake with Violet Buttercream. Or celebrate the start of baseball season with our 7th Inning Stretch Cupcake – that’s a Brown Butter Vanilla Cupcake with Salted Caramel Buttercream and Cracker Jack Crunch. Get a taste of the islands with our luscious Gluten-Free Pina Colada Cupcake with Coconut Cream Cheese Icing.

Indeed, Spring Fever is taking hold!

 

Oh l’amour!

If I’ve inspired you to burst into song, bravo! Happy to be in the company of fellow Erasure fans :)

Love is in the air my friends – can you feel it? And not just because it’s that day. The Groundhog called for an early Spring! Baseball season starts soon, with the hope that the Cubs just might end the curse! And très jolie pâtisserie is working on some lovely Spring flavors! (To be announced in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!)

Spread the good word – you’ll be seeing a lot of more of us around town in the coming months. In March, we are popping up at the new Bowtruss location at the Merchandise Mart, as well as revisiting their lovely shop in Lakeview. So you can get your French pastry fix at either stomping ground. Our menu will rotate in keeping with our clever whims – it promises to delight the taste buds. Keep your eyes tuned to our facebook page for more details about these events.

And there is more in the works for the Summer months ahead. For now, we’ll leave you in suspense. :)

What do you want to eat at our pop-ups? Have a hankering for something in particular? Let us know and we’ll see what we can do to deliver.

Happy <3 day friends. Today, and all throughout the year!

 

A night at the Lyric Opera with Très Jolie Pâtisserie

Hello my loyal readers.

I apologize for the delay in posts. There has been a flurry of excitement in the kitchens of très jolie pâtisserie as we prepare for the Lyric Opera House of Chicago’s 29th annual black-tie fundraiser. The theme this year is “Midnight in Paris” – très chic, and oh so très jolie!

I have been invited to have a sweets table at the event. Very exciting! And what, pray tell, will I be featuring? I am glad you asked! Guests in attendance can look forward to sampling an array of my signature petit fours, including vanilla bean eclairs, white truffle and milk chocolate macarons and – the coup d’état – opera cake, bien sûr.

The night promises delicious food and high class entertainment, with a 1920′s-style cabaret! I even hear there will be an Eiffel Tower erected for the evening. I cannot wait to take in the sights and sounds – I promise to post pictures later.

 

 

It’s beginning to look a lot like…

WINTER!

The official first day of Winter may be a few weeks away, but this persistent chill in the air and ever earlier fall of darkness has me fooled. While I may not be ready for Winter just yet, I sure do love the holidays! Nothing inspires an epic day of baking more than a pretty snow falling without pause and some festive music filling the air. All I need is a mug of strong coffee and I am good to go :)

I have been dreaming up new flavors and ideas for weeks. Even as the Fall collection was revealed, notions of Winter flavors were dancing in my head. And now, with Thanksgiving behind us, it’s the perfect time to share them with all of you. Without further adieu, I give you the Limited Edition, Winter Flavor Collection from très jolie pâtisserie.

Macarons (Gluten-free):

  • Hot Chocolate and Marshmallow
  • Spiked Eggnog
  • Pomegranate
  • Fig

 Madeleines:

  • Cranberry Orange
  • Maple
  • Earl Grey Tea
  • Black and White

Chocolate Truffles (Gluten-free):

  • Hazelnut Crunch
  • Irish Cream
  • Peppermint
  • Champagne Toast

Tarts and Tartlets:

  • Pear, Cranberry and Hazelnut
  • Chocolate and Salted Caramel
  • Roasted Walnut and Candied Ginger
  • Caramelized Butternut Squash

Now is the perfect time to place your holiday order.

There are limited quantities of each flavor available. Order by 5 p.m. on December 16th to ensure Christmas availability.

 

 

Popping up in a Lakeview coffee shop…

très jolie pâtisserie is delighted to announce that this Sunday, November 11th, we are selling macarons at the newest edition to Lakeview’s finest coffee purveyors, Bow Truss. Stop by, say hi and get your sweet fix with a macaron – or three!

We will have Fall favorites, Pumpkin Spice and Caramel Apple, as well as Limited Edition Crimson Cranberry available for purchase from 9:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. Yum!

Bow Truss is located at 2934 N. Broadway in Chicago, IL. We hope to see you there!